That seems so strange to me, coming from a religious tradition that forbade contact between the sexes (except when married, and only when the woman was "ritually pure").
Is gender commingling and flirtation not a primary concern? In my opinion, some healthy exposure to the opposite sex probably makes a regular young man well-balanced and temperate, but I would think that the authorities would want to minimize "distractions."
It is not that much of a problem. The parish is really small, local and everyone knows each other. Most of the young people were raised together and everything, so everything is more platonic rather than flirtatious. They see each other as friends or cousins rather than romantic partners. However, for me, since I was the new guy it was kind of different since I didn't know them; they weren't like my close friends to me whom I have no romantic attraction to, they were just a few attractive young women.
Also, did you say that Judaism or Orthodoxy used to forbid any contact between the sexes? How far was this taken? I mean, could people even have platonic relationships or socialize with the opposite gender at all? Even outside of the Church/Synagogue?
I come from Orthodox Judaism. In the synagogue, there is a physical barrier called a mechitza
that keeps the men and women separated. Usually, men and women sit on the same level, in which case a mechitza looks like this:
However, women sometimes sit a level above the men; in that case, they can see the men but the men can't see them. In this picture, the women are sitting behind the top windows. If you were standing in the men's section, you would only see their silhouettes.
Physical contact is always forbidden between the sexes. Only immediate family members are allowed to touch each other. Additionally, if a women is menstruating, she is considered impure and the husband cannot touch her until she is clean for seven days and bathes in a ritual bath.
Talking to the other sex was not explicitly forbidden, but many rabbis wrote about the evils of associating too much with women. Boys and girls attend different schools and in some communities, meet only during "made for marriage" dates where their parents chaperone. It really depends on how traditional versus how "modern" the community is, but in most cases, men stick with men and women stick with women.